Review: Happy Valley (Series 1)


5 stars


Happy Valley is a new BBC drama, summarised in three words: emotive, hard hitting and fast-paced.  Instead of being another boring dramatization of The Bill, the drama sees crime in a new perspective on a lower level, from a sergeant in a small local police station in North England. The Yorkshire location, ‘Calder Valley’ is aptly named Happy Valley, based on the extensive drug problems across the region. The story starts with a huge personal reveal by the sergeant who lost her daughter to suicide. Although this seems outrightly depressing, the drama explores how personal and professional life mixes in the police force. The drama is mixed with northern comedy but delivers a strong fast moving plot, which leaves you gripped.

The main plot surrounds Catherine Cawood, the sergeant played by Sarah Lancashire, who restlessly tries to increase knowledge and justice for the drug problems. The sergeant feels helpless in her position as her power is not as extensive. Sarah Lancashire delivers a perfect representation of a strong northern police woman with an air of sarcasm, not to be messed with.

However, she soon becomes involved in apprehending a kidnapping gone wrong, where her daughter’s rapist takes the main stage. The kidnapping is masterminded by an annoyed accountant who immediately regrets it.

The series continues in an endless fight to find and punish the newly released prisoner. The chase becomes more and more entwined with horrific crimes and criminals out of their depth. The drama becomes increasingly gruesome and is not for the faint hearted. However, that’s what makes the drama so knuckle whitening.

The chase intensifies and personal poetic justice starts to drive the sergeant to cross her moral boundaries, which she so adamantly professed at the start. Her life becomes as confused as the kidnappers’ crimes she is trying to solve and she loses clarity.

Happy Valley is on my top list of BBC dramas and I would happily own it on DVD. It is refreshing, gruesome, gripping and perfectly British.

Happy Valley will soon be available on Netflix UK.


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